SCHOOL OF CARTOON ARTISTRY: Cartoon Workshops Designed To Make You THINK!

In 2013 I began to synthesise a range of teaching techniques I’d been testing & refining over many years, into a process I called thINK Draw Connect Learn, or thINK for short. You can read more about thINK here.

The thINK Process includes deconstructing drawing into abstract ‘Elements‘ and modelling how these simple building blocks can be easily modified, repeated and combined to get quite sophisticated drawing outcomes.  It also makes use of inventive drawing games and collaborative drawing exercises to stimulate unexpected ideas and a sense of exploration in drawing.

I used thINK as a platform to redesign my teaching focus, and in 2013 I began offering cartooning intensives and 6-8 week courses under the name SCHOOL OF CARTOON ARTISTRY. The intensives were usually in 4-hr blocks, over one or two days, and the courses were a series of 2-hr sessions after school.

These SCHOOL OF CARTOON ARTISTRY classes were designed for children who were serious about their love of drawing; who wanted to develop greater confidence & line control, explore some new ways of thinking about drawing, and learn some professional techniques. As the name suggests, I wanted to demonstrate cartooning as an intelligent artform, and a legitimate medium with which to examine the foundations of drawing, such as form, texture, energy, patterns, contrast, design, layers & use of space. Just like in any ‘serious art’ school.

Working to a theme is always a great way to sharpen the focus and explore more deeply. I had already been offering ‘themed’ holiday workshops for quite awhile, so I designed the intensives around the themes that had been most popular:

  • Gross’n’Ghoully – the finer points of drawing really disgusting stuff
  • Critters & Beasties – deconstructing textures & shapes for drawing creatures
  • Comic Strip Lab – new ways to think about sequential art
  • Special FX – exploring the energy of lines to create movement & dynamics
  • Human Zoo – new ways to think about drawing humans and character design
  • Clothes & How To Draw ‘Em – dynamics of clothes (wrinkles, folds, common shapes, accesories etc)
Advertisement illustrating the benefits of a Gross’N’Ghoully workshop.

Essentially, the thINK Process is an ‘infinite possibility generator’ for shifting how people think about drawing. I designed the Cartoon Artistry workshops to provide an immersive learning environment, in which both self-guided experimentation and shared learning between students were encouraged. In the 4-hr intensives, I used the first hour or two to demonstrate some techniques, with the rest of the session given over to the students’ own exploratory drawing, based on the techniques.

I ran these intensives in Hobart & Melbourne over 2013 – 2014, and published 4 collections showcasing the students’ original artwork in an A5 mini-comic format called THUNK. THUNK #1 was published in Jan 2014. You can view excerpts from all 4 issues here.

Another 2-day intensive format I developed was Journey To The Centre Of Your Mind, in which I posed the question ‘If you could draw your Mind, what might it look like?’. This was an open-ended experiment in observing how young artists would engage conceptually with a ‘brief’, while I stepped back from my ‘teacher’ role, and was more of an ‘art director’ or mentor presence. The focus was on helping the students develop their own ideas, offering technical suggestions if they felt stuck, but always encouraging them to notice their own creative process.

These workshops were especially exciting as the quality of the artwork, and the creative ideas, really blossomed. Below are some examples from three of the Journey To The Centre Of Your Mind intensives.